Tag Archives: Alexis A. Hunter

Opinion: Fun little viral list thing… thanks, Chris Larsen…

I got tagged. Yep, Chris Larsen got me, so here we go.

It’s a bit different from most others, and I like it, so I’m going to do it. It’s all about the ten books that stayed with you. Ten books? I have a few more than that, but I can easily give ten that shaped what I love to read and write.

Here they are, in no particular order, the ten books that have stayed with me over the years:

1)    The Tomb by F. Paul Wilson
2)    Watchers by Dean Koontz
3)    Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
4)    The Beasts of Valhalla by George C. Chesbro
5)    Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
6)    I am Legend by Richard Matheson
7)    The Seduction of Peter S. by Lawrence Sanders
8)    They Thirst by Robert R. McCammon
9)    The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
10) The Stand by Stephen King

The hardest one was the King novel. So much of his early work was crucial to me as a young(er) reader, and honestly, his short stories impacted me more than any of the novels. Uncle Stevie can write a bitchin’ fuckin’ short story, man.

Now it’s my turn to tag some peoples, so if someone has tagged you already, no need to do it again. If you haven’t been tagged, have fun!

Here we go… my man Nelson Pyles, Alexis A. Hunter, G. Elmer Munson, and the awesome Kenneth Cain.

Writing: Writing Groups

Oh my goodness, it’s another blog post! Forever and a day after the last one!

I figured I’d throw down something that falls under a different category than “Mr. Brown’s fucking opinion” like, maybe, writing. Considering writing is what I spend 85% of my time away from corporate America doing, I may as well write about writing. I hope that’s not anything like the old adage “Those who can’t do, teach…”

Anyway, I’m moving on now.

I wanted to start some discussion fodder on writing groups.

I’ve been a part of online and offline groups, critique groups and “teaching” groups, but never an actual reading group. By definition, though, I don’t think we can count those, but for the record, I do know several writers who participate in them for the book discussions after. They say it helps with plot and character development, pacing, but more importantly, it puts them in touch with what the average reader thinks of any given book, and therefore it’s a litmus test for their own fiction; they’re able to take the keynotes from those talks and edit their manuscripts to better fit a narrower/broader/whatever type of audience. But still, the primary goals of those groups, unlike a writing group, is to read. A writing group puts its focus on the craft by the majority of the members.

The major thrust of the blog post is whether writing groups are advantageous.

My personal opinion is yes, absolutely.

With that out in the open, I must confess that I belong to four of them. Two are online, two are offline, and each one gets a different amount of my time. The offline groups get 99% of my group time, but that wasn’t always the case.

When I first started to write with the added desire of publication, I didn’t know any other writers. This was way back before my first kid was born, so about 13 years ago. An online group was a perfect fit and I found my way to Zoetrope, ran by the magazine, Zoetrope: All-Story. Filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, in turn, founded the magazine. It was pretty much a straight critique group where you had to review five works before you could post one of your own. The writer maintained that ratio to continue putting work up to be reviewed by others. Otherwise, the group was pointless, since its sole purpose was feedback. Sure, they had forums and writing caves that you could invite friends to, but Zoetrope’s main focus was getting critique and feedback. And if your piece was rated high enough, possible publication in the magazine, too. Not a bad deal overall.

I had good experiences in there, lots and lots of good feedback, but even more so, it was an ego boost. To hear other writers say “Hey man, this is pretty good…” and then go into the things they liked and didn’t like was awesome. It’s also where I learned to critique, to give positive remarks along with places of improvement. It helped me to read critically, because that was the sole purpose of being there.

Many reviews I see on Amazon and Goodreads today aren’t critical reviews, but taste reviews. And yes, taste is a valid part of any review, yet it shouldn’t be the entire basis of the review. But that, my friends, is a blog post for another time.

I recently joined Scribophile, recommended to me by Alexis A. Hunter. It works on the same basic principle as Zoetrope did (using points, I believe), but I’m just not active over there. It’s nothing against the site or the people (Alexis is super talented, for one, and super nice) but more due to a lack of time to read and review so and so many other people’s work. Maybe one day, if I’m not killing myself 10 hours a day with corporate America, I can become more active.

I also belong to a couple of offline writing groups. These two groups are vastly different, but that’s fine with me. It’s like genre or style in your fiction, you know? It never hurts to experiment, spread your wings, and see what’s going on.

After my first son was born, I went on a writing hiatus for the first five years of his life. I got my first corporate job and started two weeks before he was born, endured a painful 18 week training program, was never home with him as a baby. It fucking sucked. I’d had three stories published at that time (Threshold and Go Beyond) and a third (Prior Record: A Christmas Tale) scheduled for publication the following year. I’d just started, but I quit anyway.

Then, after having moved up slightly in the corporate arena, I met some writers in the company and we formed a group. We’d meet once a week, and one of us would have prepared a discussion topic to go over with the others. Such topics included character development, plot, dialogue, and all things in between. It was a teaching group, but we’d also trade word and give “ink” when asked. So, it was also part critique, but mostly the teaching. It helped put laser focus back on the writing portion and man, how I’d missed it.

Between my kid’s birth and then, I’d kept a notebook with titles, ideas, a few short stories I’d written, but what I really had was a trunk folder full of all the shit I’d started five and six years prior. I cranked that trunk open and pulled out the musty and dusty pieces.

They sucked, in my opinion, but that didn’t deter me, and I went back to work on them. This was back in 2007 or so. I revised, rewrote, reworked, received feedback, did it all again. And here, five years later, almost all of them have been published now. I have three left from that group (one of which I’m in love with and can’t find it a good home) and the other two, well, we’ll see what happens.

The teaching each other, even though none of us teach, is still a great thing. You learn how other writers approach the craft and you can then pull what’s useful into your palette of tools.

So, for the more curious folks out there, the group meets every other Saturday for two hours. We start with a timed writing prompt, go into our presentation for the day, and do any work/discussion associated with it. The last bit of the meeting we usually share news, publications, work, whatever is on our minds in relation to our writing.

The other group I belong to is quite the opposite of that one. They meet monthly (as of right now, though they’re piloting a bi-monthly meeting as well) and it’s much more of a discussion group. We bring topics, trouble stories, and the conversation just flows from there. Ideas bounce around, flow, and this goes on for several hours and the enthusiasm never wanes. Work is exchanged, critiqued, handed back.

It’s my opinion that talking and working with others writers in these capacities is beyond golden; you can’t put a price tag on surrounding yourself with intelligent, creative people, especially ones who write. Not to mention, writing is a solitary thing to do, and groups bring socialization. I should stress, since they’re all writers, that socialization is far less awkward than say going to a bar or some party.

I guess that makes writing groups priceless, eh?

Who else out there belongs to one? What kind of structure do you guys have? How beneficial do you find it?

I also want to hear from people who don’t belong, or who have and didn’t find them useful. What were the reasons you didn’t like about the ones you tried?

Talk to me, people!

2012: The Edge of Glory

Yeah, I’m going to do the whole end of year blog thing, too. Why not jump on a moving bandwagon, right? I just didn’t see the point in doing it before 2012 was over. NYE is my wife’s birthday and it’s usually a wet night for me and this year was no exception. So I had to wait and see if anything worth reporting happened that night. It didn’t, and after a day of resting my aching oak barrel-aged body, I’m happy to report I can still drink coffee, bang the clam drum, and write.

Go me.

What I really don’t want to do with this post is give a list of my goals for 2013. What’s the point, right? They’re my goals, not yours, and do you really give a shit what they are? I’d be surprised if you said yes and probably call you a liar. Well, unless you’re one of a handful of people. So, with the 2013 goals sections now completed, let’s move on to the things I do want to touch on: my completed 2012 goals, my list of thanks, and then shout-outs.

I set three goals for 2012 and, ultimately, I met all three, though one was only semi-complete. I wanted to earn enough to join the HWA in some capacity. CHECK! I wanted to publish my first novel. CHECK! I wanted my writing to pay for itself. Uh, sort of CHECK! A half-check? Three-quarters maybe. I earned enough to pay for a good portion of my writing activities this year. I can live with that. As a matter of fact, I’m really happy with what I was able to pay for. Hopefully 2013 is as generous.

And while I take credit for the words on the paper, I still have to give a sincere thanks to certain people for their trust, encouragement, and boots to the head. My wife, Michelle, for starters. I couldn’t do anything without her, much less write a fucking story for people to read. She’s my glue. Love you, honey, here’s to 2013 being even better.

I also have to say thanks to Eric Beebe of Post Mortem Press for being kick ass while kicking ass in the small press world. Everything you do puts the small press on the map and I, for one, couldn’t be more pleased to be a part of that. Along with Eric, his wife Stephanie, and the rest of the PMPress family: Paul Anderson, Joseph Williams, Brad Carter, Kenneth W. Cain, Jessica McHugh, Alan Zacher, Nelson W. Pyles. You guys are awesome. I know that’s not everyone, but I only have so much room and the beer, you know?

As always, props to my peeps in CMC: Inanna, Matt, Val, Randy, Bill. I wasn’t around much in 2012, but you were always there on the Twitters, the Facebook, or the emails. Having your constant support is invaluable. Here’s to a better 2013 and keeping each other in words once again.

As far as the shout-out section, I really have two parts to this. The first belongs to the writers whose work stands alongside mine in a few anthologies, or have been a constant voice in my ear, or just impressed the hell out of me for some reason: Alexis A. Hunter, Brady Allen, Christian Larsen, Lydia Peever, and artist Lydia Burris. If you haven’t been acquainted with these people, then you need to. They are fucking astounding. And a special mention to Jonathan Maberry. He gets a thank you for all his kind words and help at Confluence this year. He’s a super nice guy; I hope to talk with and share a panel or two with him again.

The last portion of shout-outs goes to two people that have impressed the living hell out of me for various reasons. This is one of the only times I’ll go way off topic and discuss issues that don’t pertain to writing, but are personal to me, on this blog. These next two have spoken out on several topics close to my heart: bisexuality, gay marriage, and depression. The amount of sexual discrimination in this country is outrageous; get the fuck over it, people. And depression… I’ve been diagnosed with depression, was on medication (though no longer), and still suffer from prolonged fits of either anger or solitude. In the wake of recent tragedies and the national dialogue on mental health and wellness, it’s important to start recognizing and talking about depression.

So, my first shout-out goes to a lovely woman named Jen Sylvia. She makes stuff. Like clothes, bags, and stuff, all of which you can peruse and purchase here or here. She blogs about lots of stuff (and Twitters about it too, btw), but the one I want to draw your attention to is Dahara’s Depression. It’s a no bullshit look at the disease and it’s one of the strongest, most heartfelt blogs I’ve read in a long while. For anyone who suffers from depression (mild, severe, or other), you should subscribe. Oh, and did I tell you also runs the Ohio Straight People for Gay Marriage Facebook page? Yeah. Check this woman out, throw her your support, even if it’s just to read.

The second person I want to mention here is a writing group crony, Valarie Clark, whose blog used to speak about the trials and tribulations of being bisexual. Her blog is no longer focused on bisexuality, but on her writing instead, and you can find that at the link above. But just her openness to discuss it and throw it out there in the first place earned my respect.

Both of these women tackle(d) “taboo” subjects and did so with style, grace, and humor. Now, don’t expect to agree with everything written by them (cuz I sure don’t) but it’s also been my experience that each of them is more than willing to have a conversation about any topic you have. A conversation without rancor, without hate, without judgment. And that, in my opinion, is almost as important as their subject matter. They’re strong women who should be heard. My proverbial hat goes off to them; I believe they’re a force for good here in central Ohio and hope they continue on continuing on. If these subjects are important to you, subscribe, like, read, listen, follow.

Join the conversation.

I titled this blog post “The Edge of Glory” because sitting here in my dining room, surrounded by NYE party mess, a sick dog, and a beer, that’s the dominating feeling I have concerning 2012. I feel like I’m right there at the edge, holding hands with all of you, waiting to go over.

Whether I jump into oblivion or something greater remains to be seen, but I’m flexing my toes even as I finish typing this.

2013.

Here we come.

Context 25

So I lied.

My last blog post said something about a week between this one and that one and it’s been six (give or take, but who’s counting?) My apologies, sort of, and well, yeah, enough of that. This one is here now.

Context is over and, as usual, it was a fantastic weekend. Awesome workshops, awesome panels, and awesome people. If you’re a writer and you’re close to central Ohio (that would be Columbus, Ohio for you non-geographical folks) then this convention should be on your priority list for next year. It’s not over-priced, over-crowded, or over-elitist.

Writers, you will not regret the money or the time invested, even if it’s a three hour (or so) drive.

Some highlights for me include meeting the super talented Alexis A. Hunter. We’ve published her in TGH and her story “Sacrifice of the Goddess” appears in the Misanthrope Press anthology A Rustle of Dark Leaves. Did I mention she tied for first place in the Context flash fiction contest Friday night, beating out several other professional writers? And the writer she tied with has been publishing for almost 30 years, so yeah, I’m thinking you should go check out Alexis, her blog, and her work.

I also met Brady Allen. He’s a fellow Post Mortem Press author whose collection “Back Roads and Frontal Lobes” releases tomorrow. There were copies for sale at Context and I picked one up. I’m looking forward to reading Brady’s work. Super nice guy who admitted that he’s rather fucked up and likes to write weird shit. That’s right up my alley.

The PMPress table sat next to the guys from a game I intend to check out called Metroplexity. It takes you back to the old MUDs and text based RPGs, so that’s cool. I’m a fan of retro and don’t consider text based games a bad thing (I do still own an Atari, people). And ultimately, if it’s fun and it keeps kids reading instead of relying on flashy graphics and button mashing, then it needs to be promoted. And no, that doesn’t mean I hate flashy graphics and button pushing… I own an Xbox and a PS3, too.

I picked up a few other books… “Poison Study” by Maria V. Snyder and “Blackbirds” by Chuck Wendig; I also picked up a copy of “Ghost is the Machine.” So, the reading list grows, but that’s okay.

But the real fun and merit of Context are the workshops. We do have to pay for them (this year the cost seemed to equate to $10.00/hr), but it’s more than worth the minimal cost. If you’re serious about writing and improving the craft, then you need to look into them. I won’t go into details of any specific workshops I took, but I learned secrets to being a P.I. and how to effectively use their trade for characters, was provided with an in-depth look at how to write 1-8 page synopsis of my novel, great tips on revision and what kinds of phrases editors see that are overused, how to draw out tension and reveals my monsters effectively, and how to present not only myself, but my writing as brand, to draw in readers and fans.

It’s a wealth of information for writers at all levels (well, I guess unless you’re Stephen King or Chuck Palahniuk) and, to wrap up, I’m just giving some props to the instructors I had: Timons Esaias, Maria V. Snyder, Maurice Broaddus, Linnea Sinclair, and Lawrence Connolly.